Essex Local Plan Watch - Spring 2023

17.5.23 2 MINUTE READ

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Essex is a county of contrasts when it comes to Plan making progress. 

Leading the way, the proactive, pro-growth Chelmsford City Council is continuing to progress another new Local Plan review just three years on from the adoption of its current Plan – and looking to allocate sites for 8,000 more homes in the process. An Issues and Options consultation took place last Autumn and a draft Plan is due in early 2024. The Liberal Democrats strengthened their control of the Council in the local election, so no major shift in political strategy is expected.

Maldon was the first authority in the county to adopt an NPPF compliant Local Plan in 2017 but an over-reliance on strategic scale allocations as part of the spatial strategy has exposed a shortfall in delivery, meaning that a review is now being undertaken again, albeit slowly.

Brentwood has also grasped the nettle, adopting a new Local Plan in March last year and allocating a raft of new land allocations on former Green Belt sites in so doing. The Plan contains a policy that requires an immediate partial review (including Green Belt review) within 28 months. The Conservatives lost overall control of the Council in the recent local elections, which may affect the Council’s ability to deliver the additional housing numbers in accordance with the adopted spatial strategy as previously envisaged. In any event, further Green Belt opportunities exist for those seeking to bring sites to the table.

Epping is in a similar boat, with a new Plan having been adopted in March following a five-year independent examination process. Due the length of time it has taken to prepare and examine the Plan, it only has ten years remaining of its twenty-year Plan period.

Elsewhere, the North Essex Authorities (Braintree, Colchester and Tendring) also have up-to-date Local Plans in place following adoption of Section 2 Plans by each authority that allocate sites to deliver the shared spatial strategy of the Section 1 Plan, which was adopted in February 2021. They may soon consider a review, however, with Braintree and Colchester struggling to maintain a sufficient housing land supply. Tendring is consulting on a final draft of its Development Plan Document to guide the detailed planning of the new Tendring-Colchester Borders Garden Community until 25th June.

By contrast, the Local Plan examinations of Basildon and Castle Point both ended in failure to adopt, in spite of their Inspectors recommending Main Modifications and adoption respectively. The politics of Green Belt loss was simply too problematic an issue for these authorities to tackle; and both are now going back to the drawing board of their own accord. Various appeals on Green Belt sites have been successful in Basildon since.


Five Year Land Supply

Five-year housing land supply shortages persist in Maldon and Uttlesford and there are immediate opportunities to promote sites in these districts. Braintree has also recently fallen into a deficit, despite adopting the second part of its new Local Plan only last year, and Colchester is beginning to struggle. Most of the south-Essex authorities are without a five-year land supply but have the added protection of Green Belt. We are nevertheless likely to see an increasing number of challenges at appeal in these areas due to frustrations with the Plan-making process in some districts.

For detail on emerging Local Plan position in Essex please click on the map below.


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